19 December 2014

Fremont Ridge

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

After the unsuccessful attempt to follow Fremont Ridge up from Fremont Campground, I decided I would take it down fully expecting to find that I had missed it by mere feet while trying to find a way up westward instead of northeast past the large yurt. The road is easy enough to find, especially after overshooting to Painted Cave Road (where a "road closed" sign adorns Camino Cielo) and coming back. There is a large turnout just east of the gated road it follows for much of the route, but no sign to confirm I am in the right place. The road follows along under some large oaks, then out to an area of rolling hills and sandstone boulders with some glimpses into the backcountry.

valley at the top of the ridge
The valley area to the west side of the ridge and on toward the pass.

boulders around the road as it passes an occasional pond
The vernal pools are filling out in the boulder field.

manzanita and sandstone in intimate contact
The cause of some interesting erosion patterns in the sandstone revealed.

Past a witness post marking a benchmark called "ROCKS", the road gets serious about dropping down to the bottom of the river valley. It follows along the ridge and is quite steep for brief sections. This part gives excellent views of the still low Lake Cachuma and the 1214 foot expanse of the Cold Spring bridge. There is a large plume of smoke coming from south of the lake, probably from someone taking advantage of the lifted fire restrictions to burn off some excess vegetable matter. I can hear people in the valley taking advantage of the lifted restrictions to shoot at things, too.

Cold Spring Bridge and Lake Cachuma
One large bridge and very low lake.

road along ridge line
The road closely follows the ridge line for a while.

As it gets near the transmission lines, there is a nice stand of large oaks. As the road starts to leave the oaks again, there is a junction. The main traveled route heads to the right through more of the old oaks while the left continues down the ridge line. The trail once went to the left, but now goes to the right to avoid some private property. I keep to the old route because I still have that PLSS marker to look for some 0.6 miles further down the ridge and the private property the new trail avoids is some distance further down. There is some sign of foot travel, but no vehicles along what is now fuel break. There also seem to be spur fuel breaks as I go down.

from the mountains west around the river valley
Panorama of the valley below.

fuel break on Fremont Ridge
Following the old trail for a little bit longer down Fremont Ridge.

Santa Ynez River valley
Looking up along the Santa Ynez River.

There is a nice big rock approximate where the PLSS corner is marked, but my search for a monument is fruitless. The brush is heavy beside the road and although random lines have been cleared through it, I cannot search the area very well. Below, there is an array of cellular towers, which could be the reason for the reroute. With no reason to continue further, I turn around and head back up to the junction to follow the new route.

large oak trees
Back up to the nice stand of large oak trees.

The new route passes by a number of properties and probably passes through at least one as well. A sign by one house reminds hikers to mind their manners and keep to the road. Another sign marks the route down to the campground next to the locked gate of a driveway where the house is not visible. After a little more drop down the shaded road, there is a split with no indication of the correct direction. I choose left, partly because it is going downward. It levels off quickly and continues generally westward, which makes it seem less likely. A few oaks with doubled trunks have lost one and dropped it across this road. I am thinking this road has seen little travel recently when another turn brings me into view of the large yurt. I did miss the continuation of the trail by feet.

pointing the way
Someone's weekend project points the way away from their driveway.

view of valley framed by trees
The views from here are all quite obscured.

large, round tent
A round platform tent has been left partly open at the end of the road.

Following the road along, there are more half fallen oak trees that helped to push me away from the correct route through this meadow. I wander around a little, including past the quarter section corner I found before, then return the way I came.

wheel tracks in the grass
Some wheel tracks climb a very shallow hill southward. If continuing down, do not follow these.

oak shrouded ruts
The road is little more than a couple muddy tracks before it ends.

hairy looking bulge of fungus
A big of fungus that was interesting to poke at, but may be more interesting to some others.

The sun is managing to shine through the clouds as I get out from under the protective oaks and into it, but the day is still quite cool and nice for climbing back up to Camino Cielo.

oaks in the sun
Back up to the top of the oak stand again.

looking back to those oaks again
Another look over the valley.

Knapp's Castle
Knapp's Castle from Fremont Ridge.

As I get back up into the boulder field, the clouds are starting to return, coming from the front side of the mountains and pushed by a bit of wind.

area around Knapp's Castle
Looking east along the ridge to the area above Knapp's Castle.

low clouds coming
Clouds overtaking the pines at the top near Camino Cielo as I enter the boulder field again.

On the way down, I noticed a small but well established trail heading up again and decide to take it now that I am also heading up. It climbs to a small peak near the start of the road and has a couple routes back down to Camino Cielo. The clouds now leave very little more than the local area ground visible as they close in for another session of rain. I follow the route back to the car and head off.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 31 December 2014

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